How to Fix Loose Fence Posts

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A loose fence post usually has one of two causes. It was not tamped in properly when the post was first put in, and as the ground settles, a gap opens around the post allowing it to shift. The second cause is that the post has rotted or broken off below the ground. Replacing or tightening a post is not difficult – you can do it independently and save the cost of hiring a fence contractor.

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How to Fix Loose Fence Posts

Step 1: Test the Loose Fence Post

Test the post to determine the cause of its becoming loose. Push the post back and forth and study the ground. If the post is intact the whole length of it will move. If the fence post is broken in the ground the post will rock and twist at the point of the break.

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Step 2: Check and Tamp the Soil

If the post is not broken, check the soil around it. If the soil is loam or sand, try tamping the area immediately around the fence post. This will force the soft soil down around the post, tightening it. Fill additional dirt in as you tamp it down. If the post is now tight, then your work is done.

If the ground is too hard to tamp, or if the post is broken, then it will have to be pulled out of the ground. Depending on what kind of fence it is, the wire, boards or rails will have to be unfastened from the post.

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Step 3: Remove the Loose Fence Post

Position a bumper jack or a handyman jack against the post, with the hook against the post. Wrap a chain or nylon strap tightly around the lower end of the post and over the hook on the jack. Begin ratcheting the handle on the jack, lifting the post up out of the hole. When the post clears the hole, finish by manually lifting it out and laying it on the ground. Disconnect the jack.

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Step 4: Replace the Post

Dig the post hole out larger with the post hole digger. If there is a broken piece of post in the hole, remove it. When you have dug out the hole, put the post back in. If the post was broken, put a replacement post in the hole.

Step 5: Level and Tamp

Line the post up with the posts to either side of it. Once the post is lined up, shovel gravel into the hole one-fourth of the way full. If possible, use small gravel as backfill material or mix wet sand 50/50 with the gravel instead of dirt, as dirt isn't a very stable backfill material.

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Straighten the fence post. Use a spirit level 2 to 3 feet long to guide you as you straighten the post, which you'll want to be both level and plumb. Hold the post with one hand and the tamper in the other, tamping the backfill material hard in the hole all around the post. Shovel in another few inches of backfill material and tamp again. The post will begin to tighten; as it does you will no longer need to hold it up. Push the post as needed to keep the levels even.

Step 6: Complete the Loose Fence Post Replacement

Continue filling the hole and tamping until the hole is filled and the backfill material is tamped down hard around the surface. Reattach the wire, rails or boards. The fence post is now solid.

Tip

Setting a new post is easier with two people. One can ratchet the jack while the other lifts on the post. One can shovel the backfill material around the post and tamp while the other person keeps the post level.

A string can be run from one post to another, with the new post in the middle and set up against the string to keep the posts in line.

If you encounter rocks while digging use the sharp end of the tamping bar to break them out of the hole.

Warning

Lift with your knees and not your back.

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